AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeo: Adrift for Days – A Sleepless Grey

Back in the primordial days of this here blog, we attempted something called “AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeo.” The basic idea was to select a bunch of unsigned bands and give them the collective review treatment to find the most worthy buried gems. It was our humble effort to remind folks that the metal underground is still an important part of the world of metal.

After several years of self-righteous elitism where we largely overlooked unsigned acts, it’s high time we make amends. And so we’re bringing AMGs Unsigned Band Rodeo back from the dustbins of history with a fresh paint job and a butt-load of new reviewers! Every other month we will pluck a band from metallic obscurity, review the holy Bejesus out of them and leave them to the mercy of you, the fickle masses. At year’s end we will crown the best in show and shower them with accolades, cheap beer and day old sushi. Now that you know the score, welcome to the Rodeo, mofos!

Earlier this month we randomly divided the AMG clown brigade into 2 teams, each reviewing a different unsigned band’s album. First, the unheralded Team White Ale tackled the debut by Canvas Black, and now the intrepid Team Jornophile takes on A Sleepless Grey, the third full-length by Sydney Australian’s Adrift for Days. These unhappy Aussies play a mix of psychedelic doom, drone and post-rock, citing Pink Floyd, Neurosis, Earth and Boris as their main influences. A Sleepless Grey was released on June 6th via Bandcamp. You can learn more about them on their Facebook page. Lights, camera, Rodeo!

Steel DruhmA Sleepless Grey delivers 56 minutes of morose post-metal doom extra heavy on atmospherics. Long drawn-out songs drift through tranquil valleys and erupt with tectonic plate shifts creating impassable mountains of heaviness a la vintage Neurosis and Isis. With 2 albums already under their belt, Adrift for Days have a handle on this style and incorporate native instrumentation, NOLA groove and eerie soundscapes for spice. This works well on opener “We Stare Into the Sky,” which is a bumpy, interesting ride through bleak dimensions. Album high point “The Spinning Wheel” recalls the southern swagger of Down and Floodgate, while “Feast of Fools” unveils crushing, Triptykon-esque riffage. The songs are beautiful, even stunning at times, but transitions can sometimes feel awkward (“The Earth Begins to Shake),” and some tracks are too long with too little happening (“When the Knot Unties”). This is a talented bunch, and with editing/tightening, a masterful album would reveal itself. Sadly, the taxing run-time and song bloat hold it back from greater vistas. 3.0/5.0

Madam X  On this their third album, Adrift For Days successfully achieve all that their name implies. With gently applied post-metal, wafting somewhere between Beak, Ka-Mmen and Tool, “We Stare Into the Sky” slowly and meticulously unfolds, delivering such charm and elegance it leaves me well and truly captivated. Though a long track, contributing to a lengthy (56-minute) album, there’s not a moment where my concentration waivers, nor where the song lacks direction or feels bulky. The momentum continues through “A Sleepless Grey,” its journey a progression through dense shifts in funeral doom and noise, wrapping up with avant-garde exploration. The band shifts gears more often than not, each track becoming a blatant contrast on the one that precedes it. Expect the menace of Jace Everette or the mania of Them Crooked Vultures at one point and Metallica or Black Sabbath at the next, before coming to rest, face-down in a sludgy pool of Down-styled NOLA-doom. These Aussies succeed in impressing me, where many before them have failed — let Adrift For Days carry you away on A Sleepless Grey! 3.5/5.0

Doc A.N. Grier  I have to admit that, at first listen, Adrift for DaysA Sleepless Grey didn’t make sense to me. For one, I couldn’t tell where opener “We Stare into the Sky” was going. That’s until the crippling depression of the title track kicked in. Then, all a sudden, I got it: A Sleepless Grey is the doomy, deathy, sludgy equal to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It’s dark and sinister, it’s desolate and lonely, it’s isolated and Australian. Alternating between Nick Cave calmness (“A Sleepless Grey” and “This Sinking Feeling”), Dax Riggs soothingness (“Feast of Fools”), and carnivorous snarls, the vocals combine with the doom and drone to capture the moods of the desert. A times, it may drag on a bit (“The Earth Begins to Shake” and “The Spinning Wheel”), but songs like the lonesome title track, the Toolish/Cobaltish “This Sinking Feeling,” and the nice-to-nasty closer “When the Knot Unties” prove the vibe works. The record may need a few good spins, but once that mood is set, this turns out to be a pretty good listen. 3.0/5.0

El Cuervo – I won’t sugar-coat it: there’s quite a lot wrong with A Sleepless Grey. First, many tracks open with a minute or two of ambience while the atmosphere generated during the tracks otherwise is already the album’s greatest strength. Another unnecessary element detracting from the experience is that 5 of these 7 tracks exceed 8 minutes when there are far too few fresh ideas to perpetuate these lengths. But despite these overdone aspects, I find it underdone in other areas too. “This Sinking Feeling” is probably the best track given its stronger riffs and solo but this just highlights their conspicuous absence elsewhere. Moreover, there’s a distinct lack of distinction, by which I mean musical landmarks to help identify and distinguish individual tracks. The psychedelic ambience and droning sludge simply blur. I began by criticizing the unnecessary elements and must now conclude that the album is itself unnecessary listening. 1.5/5.0

Diabolus in Muzaka – Combining what sounds like the worst impulses of Neurosis and Monster Magnet, Adrift for Days have made in A Sleepless Grey a record that was endured instead of heard. Songs use largely simple structures, but because of the funeral doom influence that permeates the material to varying degrees these structures, essentially the same as garden variety pop-rock songs, are stretched often beyond the seven-minute mark. There’s no urgency, no fire, nothing to grab the listener and make them listen. Instead we get trite sounds, facsimiles of doom riffs that are themselves facsimiles of Black Sabbath outtakes, creating an atmosphere that’s never sure of exactly what it wants to achieve. How is one to feel when listening to A Sleepless Grey? If the answer is “woefully bored” then I would consider this a complete success. Perhaps I missed something, but try as I may I cannot begin to fathom what exactly I missed. 1.0/5.0

L. Saunders – Sydney’s Adrift for Days are from the Neurosis school of post-metal gloom and sludgified doom, taking a vaguely gothic, psychedelic, and droning route to their destination. Slow-building crescendos give way to crushing bursts of doomy bleakness and psychedelic meanderings, each languorous arrangement unfurling over hefty song lengths. The formula has potential, but unfortunately the song-writing and execution is too inconsistent and there are simply not enough interesting ideas to sustain interest, with the hypnotic effect the band are aiming for too often lulling me into a detached haze of disinterest. Vocally, Mick Kaslik’s heavier variations suit the bleak vibe well, however, his warbling clean tones, which occasionally evoke the great Dax Riggs, mostly miss the mark. Occasional dark sparks or affecting passages, such as the stronger points of “The Spinning Wheel,” can’t compensate for the album’s flaws and lack of self-editing, leaving A Sleepless Grey as a missed opportunity. 2.0/5.0

Dr. Wrvm – If I could distill every facet of metal that I avoid into one convenient, easy-to-ignore package, the result might look like the monolithic “doom drone psychedelic post-metal” tag of Adrift for Days. I hoped their third album A Sleepless Grey could overcome my prejudiced predisposition, to provide a bit of spiciness instead of sad-boy slog, and indeed they do, at least somewhat. AfD’s oddly poignant sludge riffs and southern crooning can be truly ear-catching, and at its heights, the record evokes the caustic qualities of Neurosis. ASG stands with enough backbone that, were the genre-requesite meanderings of this plodding supernova pared down, I could see myself truly enjoying its cavernous lament. However, most of the hour-long run stumbles across a tepid malaise that makes me yearn for more of Mick Kaslik’s searing howls and abrupt mood swings and less of whatever is actually happening at the time. Less is more, folks. 2.0/5.0

Treble Yell – A Sleepless Grey is not for the thumb-twiddlers or the toe-tappers, the watch-checkers or the eye-rollers. It’s not for those that live the quick-fix, instant coffee, fly-in-fly-out lifestyle where results are immediate and gratification isn’t far behind. A Sleepless Grey is for the turtle and not the hare; for those that choose commitment over brief dalliances and are happy to roll up their trouser legs and wade into the deep end. I’ll admit that I didn’t think A Sleepless Grey was for me at first, its languorous blend of ISIS and Red Sparowes failing to make much of an impression. But I persisted, and in time Adrift For Days won me over with their powerful riffs, haunting acoustics and memorable vocals that pulled from Aaron Turner and Dax Riggs. Take your time, relax and you might find this rumbling hour of simmering rage may prove a tasteful distraction. Just don’t expect love at first sight. 3.0/5.0

Roquentin – A Sleepless Grey is that rare type of album that whilst heavily reliant on dark textures and moods, manages to channel those elements not only through droned, prolonged riffs and hazy, sparse passages but also through massive, crushing excursions. The hard edge of their sound can swiftly transition from Earth-like twangy loose drones into walls of Neurosis sludge. But there’s more to Adrift for Days’ music. As the title track demonstrates, the Australian quintet often dives deep into Americana, the transgressive aesthetics of post-punk, gothic rock bands, and Dax Riggs’s projects, adopting bleak atmospheres if not directly their sound. The songs here are long, patiently built, and with poignant climaxes. The standout “The Earth Begins to Shake” sways between slower, folksy parts and heavier exclamations, only to end up with a guitar-lead, euphoria-inducing post-metal fortissimo. Much like the whole record, it’s an epic track. 3.5/5.0

Editor’s Note: During the process of selecting and reviewing A Sleepless Grey, Adrift for Days was signed by Art As Catharsis Records. Congratulations guys, no more Rodeo for you!

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